Spatial Variations In Chlorophyll A, C, N, And P In A Louisiana Estuary From 1994 To 2016

R E. Turner
E M. Swenson
C S. Milan
J M. Lee
R E. Turner


Intense sampling of an estuary can reveal relative spatial changes that are significant irrespective of whether or not the estuary is eutrophic, micro- or meso-tidal, disturbed, or restored. This waterscape' perspective is analogous to a landscape perspective. We collected monthly water samples in the Barataria Basin watershed from 1994 to 2016 at 37 stations along a 129km transect from 1km offshore to a freshwater stream. The average Chlorophyll a (Chl) concentration from 267 trips was supported from both nitrogen-fixing cyanobacteria in a freshwater lake and partially from nutrients in seaward sources. Estuarine salinity was correlated with the discharge of the nearby Mississippi River. The main form of N was as organic nitrogen, not inorganic forms that recycle quickly, making changes in inorganic nitrogen concentration an unreliable indicator of net denitrification or uptake. The total nitrogen (TN) and total phosphorus (TP) concentrations declined with dilution towards the coast, but not because of denitrification. The phytoplankton standing biomass reflected the TN:TP ratio in the water column and there was a significant rise in the variability of Chl concentration at 2-6psu, which was otherwise unremarkably constant. These waterscape patterns and cautionary interpretations may be common to other estuaries.